The lighter, sweeter side of crude oil

Stephen Beard Feb 24, 2011
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The lighter, sweeter side of crude oil

Stephen Beard Feb 24, 2011
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STEVE CHIOTAKIS: All of that violence in the region has sent oil to levels higher — not seen since in more than two years. That $103 we told you about earlier is the price of oil from West Texas. In fact, a barrel of oil from the ‘Brent oil field’ in the North Sea has been over $103 for weeks. Today, Brent Crude costs $119 a barrel. And oil from Saudi Arabia or Libya have different price tags, as well.

Marketplace’s Stephen Beard is with us live from London with an oil primer of sorts. Hi Stephen.

STEPHEN BEARD: Hello Steve.

CHIOTAKIS: Isn’t all oil basically the same?

BEARD: No, there’s a big range in the quality of crude, and the purity of the product. In the lingo of the oil industry, the “lighter” and “sweeter” the crude is the higher the quality. WTI West Texas is actually sweeter than Brent. Brent is a bit more sour.

CHIOTAKIS: How do they know that? Who tastes the oil?

BEARD: Well, no, it’s a reference to the level of sulfur in the crude. The more sulfur, the more sour the oil is. The more refining is required, then to turn it into a product like gasoline.

CHIOTAKIS: Then if oil from Texas is better, why isn’t it more expensive?

BEARD: Well, this is a very good point. I mean, it’s because West Texas is delivered at a fixed location in the middle of the United States in Cushing, Oklahoma. Not much good for thirsty emerging economies.

Here’s Nick MacGregor of brokers Redmayne Bentley.

NICK MACGREGOR: Demand has changed. And the fastest growing markets are from emerging economies. And the delivery point in the USA isn’t necessarily convenient for all users.

Brent Crude on the other hand can flow more easily to the outside world. The preeminence of Brent therefore is a symbol of the relative shift in economic growth away from the United States.

CHIOTAKIS: And to those emerging markets. All right, Stephen Beard, joining us from London. Stephen thank you.

BEARD: OK Steve.

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